Pubs forced to put lids on takeaway pints by councils are causing an unnecessary rise in plastic waste, campaigners have said.
Licensing regulations mean the drinks have to be served in a sealed container, meaning plastic cups are mandated to have a lid. However, as these drinks are mostly being consumed in nearby parks, these lids are often discarded in minutes and could take hundreds of years to break down, according to environmental charities.
Currently, most licences for 'off-sales' of alcohol stipulate that it must be sold for consumption away from the premises in a cup or container which has a lid. While some have found this a useful way to recycle old milk bottles, most have bought single pints in plastic cups, sealed with a plastic lid.
Pubs which encourage drinking from open containers in the street near the venue are at risk of losing their licence in most parts of the country. While in England drinking establishments are open again, many feel safer from the virus outside so would prefer to consume takeaway beer in the park.
Ministers declared to The Telegraph last week that they were waging a war on single-use plastics because of the huge amounts of waste generated by disposable PPE and takeaway containers during the pandemic. This includes enforcing a single-use plastics ban, which will prohibit the use of plastic stirrers, straws and plastic cotton buds, finding sustainable alternatives to disposable PPE and encouraging British people to use reusable containers.
Environmental campaigners have urged councils to loosen the rules in order to allow pubs to sell beer in open containers in order to reduce waste.
Louise Edge, senior plastics campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: "While plastics certainly are useful in medical contexts, it’s vital that we minimise excess plastic waste being produced because of the pandemic, such as these wasteful plastic lids which pubs are being forced to use.
"Single use plastics like these lids will be used once and thrown away, ending up polluting our marine or terrestrial environments for hundreds of years. We must curb our reliance on single use plastics, and not throw away years of progress that have been made.”
Some have suggested that pubs be allowed to serve takeaway drinks in reusable containers, paid for by customers, to stop the plastic litter.
John Read, the founder of Clean Up Britain, told The Telegraph: “It would be far better if Councils allowed pubs to use reusable glasses that customers have to purchase from them. They would then be more likely to value them, and less likely just to recklessly discard them causing visual pollution”.
Deputy CEO Richard McIlwain of Keep Britain Tidy agreed, adding: "Pub chains need to lead the way and not succumb to yet more single use plastic.
"We are calling on them to introduce reusable plastic or steel pint glasses with a refundable deposit as already used successfully in sports stadiums around the country as a means of reducing waste and litter."
A recent report by Keep Britain Tidy, commissioned by the government, found that takeaway cups and bottles are by far the most-littered items in Britain.
The survey, carried out at a representative sample of sites across the country in 2019, looked not only at the number of items dropped but at the volume of that litter and it revealed that 75 per cent was the result of drinks consumption.
Glasgow Council banned the sale of takeaway pints last week due to concerns over "anti-social behaviour". Beer gardens are now open in the city, however.
A spokesperson for the council said: "Over the course of lockdown, we’ve been inundated with complaints about premises selling ‘take away’ drinks, often in disposable, plastic cups.
"Unfortunately, the sale of alcohol in this way has led directly to public drinking and public urination, which is unacceptable, anti-social behaviour.
“Due to the volume of complaints, the situation has now become untenable and risks damaging the reputation of the city’s responsible licensed trade."
Pubs in the city can now only sell "properly sealed" drinks such as cans of beer and unopened bottles of wine for takeaway, she added.